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Denver is the bustling heart of the state of Colorado, an exciting city that’s found high up in the heart of the impressive Rocky Mountains, and which at an altitude of over 1600 metres, is one of the highest cities in the USA.
This is a city that’s surrounded by nature, and in Denver, you’re never too far from the great outdoors. National parks are just a short drive away, where you can hike, mountain bike and white water raft in some of the most pristine surroundings imaginable.
If you’re travelling with kids, then you can take them on adventurous days out, while if you’re with your partner, there are plenty of romantic day trips to take.
from Denver. If you love travelling by train, then Colorado is the state for you too, because this is railroad country, and you can enjoy many classic, scenic train rides in the state!
To inspire your trip to Colorado, here are the best day trips from Denver!
Table of Contents
Day Trips From Denver by Train – Royal Gorge Route Railroad
Romantic Day Trips From Denver for Couples – Rocky Mountains National Park
Best Day Trips from Denver with Kids – Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Boulder is a small city that’s just a short train ride away from Denver on the local light rail system that stretches out into what are now slowly becoming suburbs of Colorado’s capital.
Despite its ever-encroaching proximity, Boulder is still very much its own place, and it’s an impressively green destination that’s right on the edge of the wilderness!
Boulder might be a city, but it certainly won’t feel that way when you step off the rail line and are immediately confronted with the humbling form of the Flatiron Rocks, a beautiful rock formation that’s become one of the most iconic sights in Colorado.
You can hike right out into the mountains from the city, but before you do, spend some time exploring the streets of Boulder first. This is a university city, and you’ll notice that this is a bustling and busy place, with a raw energy that easily wears off on visitors!
There are bars, cafes and breweries across the city, and it’s a great place to simply enjoy, and to take in the local atmosphere. The centre of Boulder is Pearl Street, a pedestrian area where not only you can find eateries and drinking establishments, but where you can see Boulder’s most historic buildings.
From Boulder, you can easily head out hiking, and you’ll be spoilt for choice if you are looking for peaks to climb, with many of the nearby mountains offering solid hiking and excellent views over the city below. After your hike, relax on Pearl Street with a few drinks, before catching the light rail back into Denver again in the evening.
Colorado really is railroad country, as when the United States of America began expanding ever westward from the east coast, they needed to connect both sides of the country through the seemingly impenetrable mountains.
Those railroads began being built right through Colorado, through the middle of the USA, and today, many of those historic routes are still in operation, although many are purely for tourists.
Travel from Denver to Leadville, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, where you can find one of the most scenic rail journeys in the state. A trip just to Leadville, is an event in itself, as this is the highest altitude city in the USA, as it stands at a staggering 3000 metres!
Be prepared for the altitude, but be prepared for the journey of a lifetime too, as from Leadville you can join the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad, a classic train journey that used old railroad routes through the mountains.
On a two and a half hour train ride from Leadville, you’ll pass some of the most spectacular scenery in Colorado. You’ll travel along high mountain passes, with incredible views of the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains. There’s even an open-air carriage, and when the sun is shining you can enjoy the crisp mountain air and uninterrupted vistas!
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Another classic, scenic railroad journey that you can make close to Denver is the Georgetown Loop. Georgetown is close to Denver, being less an hour drive away from the city, and it makes for a wonderfully historic day trip.
In Georgetown, you can catch the famous Georgetown Loop to Silver Plume. It might only be a distance of 2 miles on the old railroad, but it’s a fascinating and scenic journey to make.
The railroad was built in the late 19th century when Georgetown and Silver Plume were booming mining towns. The loop connected these two remote communities, through one of the most dramatic canyons in Colorado!
The elevation was steep, and the railroad was considered to be an unprecedented work of planning and engineering when it was opened after much toil and labour! Immediately, it became a tourist attraction, a role which it continues to fulfil today, even after the boom days of the mining era have long since passed.
You can still ride an authentic, steam engine along the Georgetown Loop, and in both Georgetown and Silver Plume, you can take tours of the old mines and learn about the intriguing local history!
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Train fanatics will have endless fun in Denver, as the opportunities for scenic railroad day trips are immense!
Another fantastic day out on a classic train line is found south of Denver, at Cripple Creek. This small city of just over 1000 people stands at an impressive altitude of 2894 metres, surrounded by imposing mountains and glorious scenery.
Cripple Creek was one of Colorado’s boom towns in the late 19th century, when enormous gold deposits were found here, and attracted migrants from across the country who were looking to make their fortune.
The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad runs for 4 miles and was opened as a tourist attraction in the 1960s. It’s a fun way to see the local area, while in Cripple Creek you can visit historic buildings dating from the turn of the 19th century.
These days, since the gold deposits have run dry, Cripple Creek is also famed for its large number of casinos, as the city legalised gambling to bring in more tourists and more money!
If you haven’t already ridden enough classic trains during your stay in Denver, then head on down to Canon City, where you can journey on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.
This is easily one of the most scenic train rides in the entire country, as the route takes you from Canon City, on an incredible two hour round trip along what was once the busy Denver to Rio Grande Western Railroad, that was in operation from the late 19th century until the 1980s.
This was one of the most important railroads in the country, and today it lives on, if only for the tourists!
The scenic train takes you through the Royal Gorge, a spectacular canyon on the Arkansas River. This is a train ride like no other, too, because you can choose from a variety of different classes when you travel, including lavish first-class carriages if you desire!
While onboard, you can eat and drink as you travel along the railroad, and you can join their dedicated dinner journeys where you’ll be served an exquisite meal while enjoying the best views in Colorado. It’s an exceptional journey to make, and one of the best day trips and train rides from Denver!
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The Rocky Mountains are a destination that anyone can enjoy, all you need is even a slight love of the outdoors, and you’re guaranteed to be blown away.
If you’re travelling as a couple though, then there’s just something extra special about exploring the majestic mountain peaks together, and a day trip to the Rocky Mountains National Park is one of the most romantic day trips to make from Denver!
The national park is one of the most spectacular in the country, and the views and vistas will leave you both breathless. There are snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes, colourful forests and a huge array of wildlife to see.
The park is just over an hour drive from Denver, but you’ll quickly realise that you might need more than just a day to truly explore the scenery here. There are winding roads, long hiking trails and epic viewpoints waiting to be discovered.
You can lose yourself here in the mountains for days, and it will be tough when it’s time to turn around and head back to the city.
Trail Ridge Road is the most famous road in the park, and you can drive along the country’s highest paved road, which leads to a height of almost 4000 metres!
The mountains stretch even higher, with many of the peaks being well over the 4000-metre mark within the Rocky Mountains National Park. Bear Lake is one of the most well known and visited locations here, because it’s simply stunning.
This alpine lake is easy to get to, and offers wonderful views! If you want to get remote though, then that’s also possible in the park, because there’s plenty of wilderness that’s barely been explored!
Just a short journey south of Denver, you can find Colorado Springs, the second largest city in the state and a great place to take your partner for the day!
This busy city is fast becoming a favoured tourist destination, and for couples, there’s a lot to do!
You can enjoy a relaxed day taking in the local cultural institutions, enjoying the burgeoning culinary scene or visiting the many local breweries, if you’re into craft beer.
For a more traditional date though, a wonderful place to visit is Pikes Peak. At well over 4000 metres in height, this is one of the tallest mountains in the Southern Rocky Mountains, and it’s a beautiful place to spend the day.
You can take the Cog Railway to the summit, a fantastic journey that will give you a chance to relax and watch the scenery go past, and when you reach the top you’ll have exceptional vistas over the surrounding landscapes.
As well as this, in Colorado Springs you can visit the famous Garden of the Gods, a unique natural area of unusual red rock formations. Here you will find enormous rocks balanced on top of each other – as if they had been placed there by the gods themselves!
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One of Denver’s most iconic sights is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre!
This is easily the most outstanding amphitheatre in the United States, as the open-air theatre is built into the giant red rocks that Denver is so famous for.
The theatre was built over a century ago, and for decades has been hosting an array of artists and performers. If you are looking for a beautiful place to take your partner when you’re in Denver, then this is most certainly it!
The amphitheatre has a capacity of almost 10,000, with seating carved from the distinctive red rocks, and offers encompassing views of the stage below, and the beautiful rock formations surrounding it.
In the past, the venue has played host to an array of different musicians, including the likes of Stevie Wonder and even the Beatles!
The tradition continues today and you can check in advance of your trip for tickets and to see who’s playing, to really surprise your partner with a date like no other!
As well as regular performances – although make sure to book your tickets in advance because acts sell out quickly! – the Red Rocks Amphitheatre also has an excellent on-site restaurant that’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a romantic outing from Denver, even if you aren’t heading to a concert!
Book a table and enjoy the incredible atmosphere and the cooking of some of the city’s most talented chefs. Your partner will definitely appreciate the effort!
Colorado is home to not just mountains, but also to raging rivers, and close to Denver you can find beautiful waterways, which are perfect for white water rafting.
There are rivers for all abilities, from absolute beginners through to professionals, so if you’re travelling with the kids and they’d like to try something new and adventurous, then Denver is the place to try white water rafting!
They’ll be safe in the hands of experienced instructors, and the whole family can even join in too!
Be prepared to get wet, but just know that despite the thrills, it’s all perfectly safe! While there will be some bumpy splashes, you’ll also have areas when you can just sit back in the raft, paddle gently and drift downstream while you admire the natural scenery.
The rafting near Denver will take you along breathtaking canyons, as you’re surrounded by forests and high mountain peaks. You might even see a few moose or elk along the river banks too!
If your kids are confident on a bike or, if they want to get better and learn a few more skills, then Denver is the perfect place to learn how to mountain bike!
The nearby mountains – including, of course, the iconic Rocky Mountains National Park! – offer some of the best trails in the country, and best of all, there are trails that are suitable for any age and ability.
That makes it a fantastic place to learn, to progress and to have a whole load of fun at the same time!
You can join group or individual tours from Denver, which are tailor-made to suit everyone’s ability, and you’ll be led by an experienced local instructor who knows the mountains inside out!
For an exceptional family day out from Denver, then head over to the exciting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park!
This unique amusement park is located high in the mountains, above the community of Glenwood Springs, and the area is famed for the vast cave network that reaches deep into the rocks.
You can join cave tours that take you inside the darkened caverns, for a subterranean adventure, but you can also enjoy the different rides and attractions that are found here too.
This is part natural wonder and part man-made thrills, and it’s one of the highest altitude theme parks in the world!
You’ll be able to ride the highest roller coaster in the United States, an adrenaline-inducing experience even for the hardiest of roller coaster riders, while you can also enjoy the many other attractions, which are as varied as canyon swings and laser tag!
It’s a great day out, and if you’re taking the kids on holiday to Denver, this is the one place that you won’t want to miss out on!
For adventure travellers – and better yet, for train lovers! – then Denver is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the best that the state of Colorado has to offer!
The Rocky Mountains and the incredible scenery that surrounds the city offers a spectacular playground for both adults and kids, and you can enjoy beautiful vistas, towering mountains and deep gorges during your stay in Colorado.
If you are travelling as a couple, then the mountains offer you endless chances to escape the crowds together and to find peace and tranquillity, the likes of which you can rarely find elsewhere these days, particularly in cities! You can also enjoy an exceptional evening out at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where you can enjoy some excellent food and if you’re lucky, an exceptional performance at this unique open-air music venue!
If you are travelling as a family, then you can take the kids out to some of the best natural spots in the USA, and better yet, you can give them the opportunity to go mountain biking and even white rafting if they are old enough.
For train enthusiasts and history buffs, Denver is the perfect city to visit, because the nearby mountains offer some of the most epic scenic train rides in the country! You can visit old gold mining towns, ride steam engines through rugged canyons and experience the heart of railroad country in style!
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.